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The marriage of design, functionality, and usability is the ultimate goal of healthcare owners and contractors when building state-of-the-art hospitals and specialty facilities. Sometimes difficult to achieve, it’s one that partners reach in different ways, but it always addresses the same question—how to provide a positive patient experience to all who walk through their doors. While expanding and renovating the nursing units and constructing a surgical center for women and children, Tucson Medical Center (TMC) kept its patients top of mind throughout the process, from the design phase all the way to completion.

Tasked with finding a balance not only in the phasing for the project but also in creating a cohesive look between the renovations and the additions, designers carried the theme of the facility’s rebranding throughout the new phases. A strong yet sleek exterior using stone, glass, and shimmering copper reflects TMC’s commitment to the community it serves as well as the people that brought the vision to life. It reflects the process from concept to completion and is a reminder that the future of healthcare is all about one thing—improving the lives of community members one by one.

The impressive exterior gives way to a warm interior that carries the theme of concierge care to create an inviting and calming environment for women. “One of the most important things to the design team—and to TMC—was creating a peaceful atmosphere, so patients felt at ease from the time they step foot into the facility. Designers were very deliberate in the colors, layout, and décor they selected to infuse the Women’s Center with an aesthetically appealing and serene atmosphere that promotes healing and wellness for expectant and new mothers,” said Larry Hawthorne, vice president, healthcare for JE Dunn.

Working from the Inside Out

Inviting on the inside and eye-catching on the outside, the design is reflective of how TMC and its partners approached the project, introspectively. By taking a careful look at the existing facilities and determining what improvements would truly address the needs of its patients, they focused on improving from the inside out. With doctors delivering more babies at TMC than any other local hospital—nearly 6,000 per year— and an expected increase over the next five years, it was clear the facilities not only needed to improve by installing advanced technology, but it also needed to expand with additional labor and delivery rooms. “The increasing demands on both staff and space necessitated a large-scale renovation and expansion. Part of this meant equipping doctors, nurses, and medical staff with advanced technology and work areas that can meet future needs and patient expectations as the future of healthcare evolves,” said Hawthorne.

In addition to reconfiguring these rooms and associated services such as a clinical exam area and surgical center, the project included the construction of a separate entrance specific to the Women’s Center. Because women’s services were spread throughout the medical center without a centralized access point, this entrance proved vital to improving the patient experience. “Research has shown that consolidating women’s healthcare services and providing separate entrances increases efficiency, enhances privacy, and, most importantly, improves quality outcomes that are conducive to quicker healing and recovery time. It was very important to TMC to design this facility in a way that benefitted its patients and improved care from admission to release,” said Hawthorne.

Patient-Centered Approach 

Just as the design strategically represented the hospital’s patient-centered approach, the construction process did the same. Completed in three phases beginning in 2009, the project was scheduled in a way that allowed the hospital to remain operational without disrupting daily operations. This required collaboration from the top down. “Everybody was an equal partner in making the project a success,” said Hawthorne. “To account for the complexity, all stakeholders were part of the process from day one, and that included the owner, 33 trade partners, construction manager, on down to the nurses who were most affected by the construction plan as well as the design itself. The multi-phase sequence ensured hospital staff could operate with the same services and support needed to handle high patient volumes—the theme that was at the center of the project beginning with the design phase. Over communication, by far, was key to this project’s success both in construction and in limiting disruptions to daily workflow.”

While tremendous communication and collaboration among the trades and weekly coordination meetings between the project manager, facility, department heads, and nurses helped keep everyone on the same page regarding progress, challenges, and future plans, technology also played a large role in heading off issues before they arose, resulting in a smoother project for all involved. The team utilized BIM along with laser scanning to better analyze the key area where the new addition tied into the existing building for the new entrance. By identifying connections required for utilities, clashes, and other offsets required, the team was able to eliminate potential conflicts and bring solutions to the table before beginning work in a new area—a byproduct of the cooperation between trades that made work and installations more efficient.

The intentional focus on communication combined with a solid plan, technology, and complete buy-in resulted in a better end product for TMC and its patients. “The team really took a holistic approach in not only how to provide cutting-edge technology and healthcare options to TMC’s patients, but also in how each partner and stakeholder had a voice in both the process and the final design,” said Hawthorne. “The result was an impressive facility that the community can be proud of and that is equipped to serve them for generations to come.”

Commitment to Community 

Now open and serving the Tucson area, TMC Women’s Center and its gleaming copper reflect all who enter—and the community that helped it come to life. A true testament to the need and to the importance to the people of Tucson, the hospital obtained $12.5 million through a fundraising campaign to finance the project. “The community here recognized the need to bring the hospital up to date in its service and design, as well as the technology needed to handle patient volumes and healthcare demands. What they were able to achieve is pretty incredible, a hospital that truly belongs to them and exists thanks to their efforts,” said Hawthorne.

As a tribute to one of their own, TMC named the facility after a popular physician and medical educator who toured the world as a pioneer in laparoscopic surgery for gynecologic cancer. Emblazoned with the name Joel M. Childers, M.D., Women’s Center, the facility is a true reflection of the community’s commitment to each other, embracing its past while ensuring its future is a great one.